In Germany and Austria and a number of other European countries nearly every little village has some sort of Christmas market and if the place has more than maybe 40k inhabitants, then they often have a very impressive market. And oddly the Christmas Market in a 40,000 people city is MUCH better than any markets in the 1.5 mio city of Dublin. So what is the problem? Why can’t anybody get it hacked in Ireland despite years of trying and trying?
I have my own theories and they might be wrong, but what do you think about this:
I get the impression that in Germany and Austria etc the markets are firstly for the visitors, secondly for the traders and only in third place are the organiser’s interest. This probably has to do with the fact that it is usually not an Event Management organisation that is in charge of the market on the continent. In Ireland it is different: The first priority seems to be given to the organiser. Then they will consider briefly the traders but would love to get rid of them and only in third place ranks the audience, the customers.
But Christmas Markets are not and should not seen as a get-rich-quick scheme for organiser. Only when that changes we have a chance to see a proper Christmas Market.
There are a few unfixable problems:
Food and Gluehwein will never be as low priced as outside of Ireland. A cup of Gluehwein seemed outrageously priced at EUR 6 and it is! In Lidl you can get a litre of Gluehwein for that price. But listen to that: In Germany you pay for the same cup ONLY around EUR 2.50, BUT the bottle in Lidl is only EUR 1.50. So if we compare the price per cup with the price of the bottle then we don’t do horribly bad here. Why is the bottle so expensive here? Mainly taxes!! Thanks, deas government for even ruining our Gluehwein addiction. ;-)
And another problem: There seems to be a serious shortage of high quality craft traders in Ireland. At least of Christmas compatible and “sellable” craft!
But, I hear you saying, are the Christmas markets here really that bad?
About 10 years ago the first market appeared at George’s Dock. At the time a German company was hired to run it and they did a reasonably well job, but it was a new concept and visitors were not as plentiful as they should. After about 5 years (and I am probably not 100% correct with my timings) they were not hired again. Instead an Irish company event management company thought they could do a better job and things started going downhill: The white plastic tents were introduced. They create as much Christmas atmosphere as a Tupperware bowl. That Irish company tried for 2 years and failed. Then another Irish Event Management company got involved and just lasted one year and then there was no market last year at George’s Dock.
That’s when the era of the City Centre Christmas market began! The era lasted one year and was a disaster. In principle it was a very good idea to move the market away from the far-out-the-city IFSC to the centre. But squeezed on the footpath next to Stephen’s Green was a totally wrong place for it. Stephen’s Green would be super, but here shows up another problem: We have NO single suitable space in the City Centre of Dublin that would allow the set up of a Christmas Market Village (not just a string of stalls). Smithfield or the Point Village would be suitable regarding the space, but the location is totally unsuitable.
What else went wrong last year? Well, Christmas Markets need to have a VERY strong food and drink (at least Gluehwein) component to keep people there for a while. Only if people stay there you create atmosphere and you get others to meet them there. But Dublintown (the organisers of last year’s market) decided in their wisdom to give the “catering contract” (totally wrong approach!!) to one single company. So no competition, no variety, no excitement about the food. In addition, Dublintown was worried that the restaurants and traders in the city (who they represent) would suffer from having a too strong food and drink component. And finally: They thought more about marketing the Christmas Market than making it good!
Which brings is to the “I believe (TM) Christmas Tree & Village”. WHAT? Who in their right mind thinks first about trademarking the name of a Christmas Market (on top of that this name “I believe” is totally nonsensical!) and why is it not called Christmas Market, but “Christmas Tree & Village”? So the tree is more relevant than the village? And the village is not really a market? And the “I believe” part is trademarked? Seems like a PR agency ran riot!
The right approach? Create a deadly Christmas Market and you won’t need a fancy or even trademarked name because it speaks for itself! The Nuremberg Christmas Market as one of the most famous and best known in the world, is called “Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt” (Christchild Market). Nothing fancy, no trademark. No silly PR or marketing. It is an amazing market that speaks for itself WORLDWIDE!
More nonsensical claims at the I believe market? Sure!! What about the “Rockefeller-style” Christmas tree? What is “Rockefeller-style” about the tree? The tree is about half as high as the one at the Rockefeller Centre in New York and the lights in Dublin are as boring as hell. NOTHING that even comes close to the magical Rockefeller Centre tree. Empty promises! Like the claim about the importance this market will have in Europe within 5 years. The claim is that it will be one of the top markets in Europe within 5 years. Why does that matter? By the way: It will have NO importance in the international context and it is not relevant either. If they had focused on doing the best possible Christmas Market instead, it would be a success. But that was seemingly forgotten.
I could go on about the outrageously Après Ski table rent and the continued failure to include the CHQ building more, but I want to mention some of the good things before I will take a chill pill (You might have gathered that I am very passionate about Christmas Markets. Maybe I should offer my services as a Christmas Market consultant? ;-) )
There are definitely some good sides about the Dublin Docklands Christmas Market (trademark whatever you want of this):
For the first time the trader selection seems to be well thought out and comes close to what a Christmas Market should be. The layout of the platform in George’s Dock is good and if the white plastic tents were replaced with proper wooden huts (and there are right and wrong ones!!) it would come closer and closer to a good Christmas Market. More traders are needed and some Christmas music would help, but the decoration is quite pretty.
Sure the food trader (again seemingly in one hand) situation has to get sorted as well, competition and more variety is needed, also for the Gluehwein, but that is a relatively simple change. The opening hours are good and the entertainment programme that was originally promised seemed good as well, unfortunately though, I haven’t found a website where this programme of live entertainment has been listed for people to see. With such a marketing focus event this is a big oversight.
Is the “I believe” Market salvageable? Yes! Fire the marketing company and involve people that have been at least ONCE at a European Christmasmarket and it could be really good in about 3-4 years. However, because the NO 1 interest is still the organiser, I have doubts that it will make enough money to keep them interested that long.
If you read till here: WOW! ;-) This concludes my rant and if you want to share your opinion with me, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org